November 22, 2022 - 5:45pm

A decade ago, the 6’8”, 400-pound American pro wrestler George “Tyrus” Murdoch served as comedy relief in the WWE, gyrating his blubbery, singlet-clad frame in the ring. Now, however, he occupies a spot near the top of the Right-wing pop cultural food chain, appearing as a regular panelist on Fox News’s top-rated Gutfeld! programme, hosted by Greg Gutfeld. He has also authored a best-selling autobiography, and recently became only the second black pro wrestler to claim the sport’s most storied title belt, the 73-year-old NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship (upsetting a number of former champions in the process). 

The unifying factor here, of course, is politics — by aligning himself with the libertarian-leaning side of the American Right, Tyrus has endeared himself to Fox News’s higher-ups as well as self-described “free market-libertarian capitalist” Billy Corgan, the Smashing Pumpkins frontman who owns the NWA wrestling promotion for which the big man stars. 

Wrestlers finding their way into politics is nothing new, at least not on the American scene. Long-time WWE commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura was perhaps the most successful of the lot, serving as the Reform Party governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. But giants of the ring such as 6’7” Glenn “Kane” Jacobs and 7’ Matt Morgan, both Republicans, are currently running municipal governments in Tennessee and Florida, respectively. While others have fallen short in their bids for office, the door remains open for the likes of megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose political affiliations and interest in politics remain unclear. For Tyrus, whose Just Tyrus autobiography leapt to the top of bestseller charts within days of release on the strength of his Fox News fans, such a move seems inevitable.

In the case of some Fox News regulars who have drifted in from elsewhere, like Glenn Greenwald and Jimmy Dore, speaking opportunities on the Left may have dwindled, requiring them to avail themselves of a new audience. Tyrus’s autobiography describes a very different route to the network — he shared a tweet of Greg Gutfeld’s in 2014, whereupon Gutfeld immediately sent him a private message inviting him to appear on his show — and offers an inside look at how he crafts the political takes he shares on the various shows on which he appears.

For example, when preparing to comment on issues of police brutality in 2014, Tyrus explains how he relied on personal experience to formulate an opinion. The child of a black father and a white mother, he was disowned by his white grandparents and, following a failed bid to play pro football, had multiple unwelcome interactions with white police officers during his days as a drug dealer. He also called several police officers he knew, taking in their viewpoint, before ultimately telling Greg Gutfeld and his television audience that he thought it best for people like him — large, intimidating black men — to comply with the police, then seek legal redress afterwards.  

During the 2016 presidential election, Tyrus told Gutfeld that “neither of these two motherfuckers did anything for me” and “I may just put John McCain’s name in there as a protest.” Still, he remarked in 2020 that Trump “exposed the system for the common man,” even if he continued to take issue with Trump’s Twitter presence and his assorted cultural stances, like his opposition to kneeling during the national anthem by American football players. Tyrus even survived his own scandals during his time at Fox News, with the network reaching a settlement with former colleague Britt McHenry after she claimed the wrestler sexually harassed her in 2019

In the wake of the 2022 midterms, which showed how closely divided the country was but also saw certain bottom line-focused Republican governors — Chris Sununu in New Hampshire, Mike DeWine in Ohio, and Ron DeSantis in Florida — roll to victory by impressive margins, Tyrus’s idiosyncratic, shoot-from-the-hip centrism might have a bright future. He concludes his autobiography by making one of the more convincing cases I’ve read for a certain sort of diversity fostered by Fox News, which lets him carry Billy Corgan’s NWA title belts with him on set and wear his backward baseball caps, t-shirts, and so on. “Is there anybody else like me on any other news network?” he asks rhetorically. 

Perhaps only the nation’s largest Right-wing news network could sanitise a former drug dealer and Snoop Dogg bodyguard, transforming him into a potential national-level political commentator capable of appealing to aggrieved white baby boomers. And all this merely by allowing Tyrus to be himself. 

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work